The Old Paths: Let freedom ring

By Leslie Bray Brewer - Special to The Stokes News
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The only holiday week of the summer is upon us. If I get really still, I can imagine I hear the sounds of kids splashing in the pool, ice tinkling in a glass of lemonade, burgers sizzling on a grill, the grinding of an ice-cream freezer. What I actually hear as I type this column is the whirr of our lawnmower and the humming of our air conditioning.

Either way, those are the sounds of blessed freedom. People in oppressed countries aren’t having cookouts and making homemade ice-cream to celebrate their independence from tyranny. They may not even have a lawn to mow as they swelter in the midsummer heat. Children of such people may be hiding for their lives—not swimming or running around waving sparklers.

I pray we never take our blessings and freedom for granted.

During this week on the old paths of 1775, the Second Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia, PA—hammering out plans for these loosely-joined colonies to unite, as dealings with Crown Rule became even more tense. There were already many people living in Stokes County at that time, but they were not singing “My Country ’Tis of Thee” or buying firecrackers for the Fourth.

To them, the fourth of July was simply another day on the calendar—presumably a hot one in which crops and farm animals needed to be tended. In 1775, July 4 was a Tuesday, so if the old housekeeping rhyme was in effect yet, it was ironing day since Monday had been wash day. (Some scholars theorize that the colonists didn’t wash their clothes regularly due to the rigors of colonial life. If that’s the case, muggy July days may have been unpleasant ones for ye olde nostrils!)

In other words, on July 4, 1775, our colonial ancestors had never heard of a Declaration of Independence and had no idea their descendants would one day be lying on blankets at local parks watching fireworks while Lee Greenwood crooned “God Bless the U.S.A.” over the PA system.

But by the next year, things had changed. On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress passed the resolution to become an independent country, and on July 4, they made it public with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. (So technically we became an independent nation on July 2, but I doubt your boss will see that as reason to let you off work!)

My hubster and I had the pleasure of traveling to Philadelphia this past May for our annual anniversary baseball trip. I had never been to our long-ago capital in Pennsylvania. Two of my favorite things are baseball and history, so why not combine the two?

My dream was to see the Phillies play, climb to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps made famous in the “Rocky” movies, eat a Philly cheesesteak, see the Liberty Bell and stand inside Independence Hall. All of those dreams came true, albeit in a very interesting way.

We caught a Phillies game our first night in the city and “just happened” to be there on $1 hot dog night—surely an omen of good things to come! We may or may not have eaten five or six (not apiece!). Nonetheless, we did not suffer indigestion as we slept that night in preparation for our big historical tour the next day.

Imagine my dismay when we arrived early that morning to find that every ticket for Independence Hall was already gone. I simply had to tuck away my disappointment and make the best of a sunny spring day in Philadelphia. Touring the city from the top level of an open-air double-decker bus made that easier to do.

There were some tears, but they were happy ones shed at the top of the “Rocky” steps as the movie theme “Gonna Fly Now” played on my phone. Despite being in the midst of some major health issues at the time, I had determinedly pushed myself to climb those steps in a fashion that would’ve impressed even Rocky Balboa himself. That had been a goal of mine since I saw the original movie on my first-ever date long, long ago, so checking it off my bucket list was soul-stirring!

The only thing that would’ve made it better is if the Italian Stallion himself had appeared, and wouldn’t you know I later found out Sylvester Stallone had been there the day before I was?!!

After descending the steps, we were off to the famous Jim’s Steaks for my Philly cheesesteak and then back to the visitors’ center area to finally lay eyes on the Liberty Bell. I was very moved simply by the sight of it, but still a slight sadness lay over my heart as I gazed at Independence Hall rising into the sky through the window behind the bell.

How could I not be allowed to go into that hallowed hall on perhaps my only trip to Philadelphia? Well, bust my buttons, I would get as close to it as I could!

Thus I dragged my poor hubster around to the back of it and suddenly found a place to enter that wasn’t marked off by barriers. Turns out that even without a ticket, you could go into a side building that also was a gathering place of our founding fathers. And so we got into line for that tour.

Afterward, I overheard a lady tell the tour guide that she hadn’t been able to garner tickets for Independence Hall but wanted to simply stick her head inside the door to take a picture. He advised her to ask if she could take the place of a no-show for the tour.

Immediately my eyes met my hubster’s, and in unison, we hurriedly hustled over to the long line of people waiting to get into Independence Hall. At that exact moment, the door was opening to admit them for the next-to-last tour of the day. I ran up to the tour guide and asked if I could take the place of someone who didn’t show up for the tour.

He glanced down at me and perhaps was swayed by the unabashedly pleading look in my eyes, because he smiled at me and said, “You can come on in with this group.”

When in the course of human events such a door opens for you, you go on in! And thus I ended my trip to our nation’s former capital right where I wanted to be—standing in that historic hall where the decisions for independence were made and where the documents of freedom were signed. The thrill that went through me as I stood there and heard the history recounted by the guide cannot be expressed.

I pray we all feel that same thrill when we think about the fact that we live in a free country where the blessings of God abound. May we never take it for granted!

Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at theoldpathsatwalnutcove@yahoo.com. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com.

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By Leslie Bray Brewer

Special to The Stokes News